The “Fishbowl Philosophy”: How to Change Your Perspective and Expand Your Reach

hiking_Oberstdorf_Gipfelkreuz.jpgI opened up an adventurous can of worms when I started writing for The Feel Good Lifestyle a little more than a year ago.

I didn’t know it at the time, but publishing those very first articles would lead to a great friendship with a reader, taking me to the top of the most beautiful mountain in the German Alps a year later…

Last August, I got a message from Umut, a reader of the site. At the time, I was going through a painful breakup and was at an emotional low point. Umut had seen that we were living in the same city and shared common interests (traveling and hiking, in this case). He reached out to me and shared his feedback on those first articles.

His message was significant in that it showed me how my writing had positively affected someone in my immediate vicinity, which in turn gave me hope and more motivation to continue. (By a strange coincidence, Umut literally means “hope” in Turkish. And stranger yet, he lived not 15 minutes from my apartment.)

From the beginning, it was very clear that he was a person full of great energy, open enough to reach out and grab the attention of someone whose ideas he found inspiring, and ready and willing to share his own new ideas in a win-win exchange.

Last weekend, one year after he sent the first message, we made it to the summit of a gorgeous, 2200m alpine mountain. This post, however, is not to convince you to go hiking (although it is a fantastic way to see some of the world’s most beautiful places while strengthening your body and mental discipline).

This post is actually about fish.

Yes, fish.

fishbowl_goldfishI started writing this post about growth and change under the assumption that goldfish grow to fit their bowls. I wanted to draw grandiose conclusions about how humans parallel goldfish, that their growth is limited by the size of their perceived fishbowls (worldviews), only to find out after one quick Google search that the goldfish bit was a myth.

Indeterminate growth, structural growth of an organism that does not stop, is simply not how goldfish work. Their physical size isn’t based upon the size of their fishbowl, but rather on the quality of their environment (water, oxygen, nutrients, the usual.)

But goldfish aren’t really all that relevant to me (sorry, fish-lovers). You are relevant to me.

Clearly, people grow the same way…physically, we grow to a certain point where our genetics say “enough, stop that!”. The quality of our environment can certainly hinder or bolster that growth.

But – and again, please forgive me, goldfish enthusiasts – humans have decently sized brains and often, even bigger spirits. (Can I get a “hell yeah!”?)

However true it is that you are not a fish, I can assure you that you most certainly live in your own type of fishbowl.

Or, taken another way, your human body is itself a fishbowl with limited capacity for expansion.

Your human spirit and mind, however, live in a fishbowl where indeterminate growth can be a reality.

The Fishbowl Philosophy

My “fishbowl philosophy” is simple at its core: Change your fishbowl, change yourself.

By forcing intentional change to your perspective, you force yourself towards undeniable and limitless growth.

When you change the size or quality of your fishbowl, the size of your “reach” and quality of your life automatically get the chance to improve.

Take Umut, for example. He could have read those articles last year, internally processed their messages, and simply gone about his day. But he didn’t. His concept of the fishbowl was as large as the internet, and he reached out.

The major bonus of initially reaching out or expanding your fishbowl comes naturally when you gain momentum and your fishbowl is constantly in the process of becoming a more exciting place to be.

So you’re wondering how to change your perspective?

The Method

1. Define Your Existing Fishbowl

What size is your mental/physical fishbowl?
> How does this affect your defined scope of living your life?
> Does it empower you or inhibit you from making positive changes to your life?

You’ll find that the more your fishbowl expands, the more easily and quickly your reach will expand.

What is the quality of your mental / physical fishbowl?
> Do you have access to good oxygen/good water/good food to fuel your daily life?
> What small steps can you take TODAY to improve that quality?

2. Force a Change on Your Fishbowl

The key to changing your perspective, your fishbowl, is to catalyze growth by changing your surroundings. Depending on your individual situation in life, one of these ways might work best for you:

> Physically put yourself in a different place. Travel. Relocate. With each move, you gain perspective and (with time, and perhaps a bit of growing pain) will grow into a new and improved skin.

> Change the people you associate with. Inspire growth by surrounding yourself with greatness.

> Expect your fishbowl to change. Fact: casual beliefs about the world influence what you see. The fishbowl that is available to you, then, is the one that you have created for yourself. As you change throughout life, the reciprocal change to your fishbowl will follow as a result.

> Nurture altruistic opportunism. Practice seeing the opportunities in each new twist that life throws at you. The more you mentally prepare for the potential pathways around you, the more those pathways start to appear.

3. Grow Your Reach (a.k.a. “use your freakin’ internet, people!”)

Do you think of your reach in terms of…
your town?
your city?
your state?
your country?
your hemisphere?
your world?
your universe?

Depending on the size of your fishbowl, there are major implications on your hopes, dreams, and what you aim to accomplish in this life.

Good news, though: If you’re reading this post, you probably have internet access. Use it! The internet is more than just a place full of silly cat pictures (shocking, but true).

Everyone – yes, even you – can learn to see opportunities and take chances. Growing your reach is a muscle that everybody can train. Questioning the limits of your fishbowl is simply the first step.

So let’s do this.

Your mission is to pick 1-2 people you’ve been interested in or whose work you’ve following for a while and make first contact. Reach out, whether by email, video, or in person if you can.

Make your fishbowl a little bigger, a little better…and bring some goodness to their fishbowl too.

(I’m on this mission too: Jodi Ettenberg of Legal Nomads, get ready!)

Did you succeeded in establishing a dialogue with your “reach” people? Have you pushed the walls of your fishbowl out a bit more, or polished them up until they were crystal clear? Leave a comment and share your story!

About the Author

GingerGinger is a Peak Potentials Coach and the Feel Good Team’s resident nomad. Through her coaching, she helps you navigate major transitions, whether to new locations, new jobs or to new phases in life. Ginger also coordinates with writers for The Feel Good Lifestyle so that you have fresh, inspiring content.

Twitter: @ginger_kern

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  • excellent article, Ginger!

    I belive expanding our own fishbowl is an ongoing task in life-just like you can never learn enough, you can never have a fishbowl that is too big.

    • Hey Marina, it’s an ongoing task for sure, and somehow it’s exciting that it’s never-ending too :)

    • Also, if you check out Monet’s comment below you’ll find that she mentions a fellow “white Russian” (Gary Vaynerchuk) ;-)

  • I love this article! The more I learn about connecting with people via the internet, the more I realize that A) there are so many more people like me than I ever realized; B) it’s not about having 8000 followers or 3000 friends, it’s about building strong relationships with the ones that matter (like Umut); and C) connections are what make my world go round! I love it SO much that I have recognized a need to teach the next generation (ok, high school students :) about how to connect with others and begin building networks that will be mutually beneficial for them, with a focus on GIVING to that respective network more than waiting until they need something. That is my vision, and I’m so passionate about it. As for me, I have been constantly inspired by Gary Vaynerchuk: his persistence, hustle, and the hard work he has put in over the years to get where he is, as well as the relationships he builds with his followers/fans. I got creative with connecting with him (when you have a million people seeking attention from someone, you need to be creative to stand out) and since then have sent a few direct messages, Snapchats, and Tweets back and forth. When he replied to a post of mine saying “you just get it”, I KNEW that I was on the right track. Having that sort of validation from someone who is an expert on the topic is a confidence builder and helps make my vision even more crystal clear. I was also able to connect with several teenagers and young adults at a conference recently who, until then, had only been in touch with via Instagram. One of whom told me that she started running again because of my inspiration. There is no better feeling than knowing your work is making a difference in even just one life. Amazing. Thanks again for this article!

    • Hey Monet! Thanks for the awesome feedback — if I’m honest, I didn’t feel as confident about the final version of this post, but I’m glad that it resonated for you. Thanks for sharing your experience about connecting with Gary, and congrats on hustling yourself forward on your path to inspiring others!

      • Thanks, Ginger! Have a beautiful day :)

  • Hi, again! Sorry for blowing up your comments. I just found this webinar by Scott Dinsmore which will take place Tuesday night and felt it fit in perfectly with this conversation! Link to register is included here. Topic: The 9 Step Process for Making Genuine Connections with World-Changing People

  • […] upon your current level of consciousness. There are no right or wrong answers, so feel free to expand your perspective through […]

  • Thank you, this will help me with my GCSE Philosophy and Ethics homework.

  • Thank you so much, this will help me with my GCSE Philosophy and Ethics homework.

  • Excellent post!

    It’s funny how people are so concerned in improving every single aspect of their lives except themselves. They care about having the next car, the next phone, the next watch, the best clothes etc.

    But how often do people stop and say, I want to expand my skills in a certain area. I want to push my comfort zone and reach out to more people. I want to lear a new language. I want to master a new hobby.

    • Thanks, Sebastian! It’s super easy to see how improving yourself leaves lasting benefits…whereas that new car is somehow always getting old ;)

  • Truly agree with your points, Ginger :) And thanks for encouraging people around you!

    • Hey Ivana, thanks for commenting! I’m happy to get more people out and about in the world, connecting with other great people :)

  • […] upon your current level of consciousness. There are no right or wrong answers, so feel free to expand your perspective through […]

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